What’s wrong with Pranav Dhanawade’s World Record? – Ethics of a superlative performance in sports

On 1st of July, 2013 at Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Spain and Italy played the final of the Euro 2012. Then reigning world champion Spanish side had completely dominated the final and was leading 4-0 against Italy. When ninety minutes were over, the referee added 4 minutes of injury time. Italians looked physically and emotionally exhausted and some of their stars like Balotelli and Pirlo already had tears in their eyes. At that moment, TV cameras caught Iker Casillas, Spanish captain and goalkeeper repeatedly asking the referee to stop the game. He was asking the referee to show “respect for Italy!”. His actions highlighted an important principle – To keep marauding an exhausted and weakened adversary doesn’t suit the true spirit of any sport. Why do I remember it right now? Because of an Indian School Cricketer, Pranav Dhanwade’s record breaking performance of scoring 1009 runs in a single innings. Pranav broke a century-old record of 649 runs.

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Like everybody else when I read about Pranav Dhanawade’s feat I was literally awestruck. In school cricket scoring even a 50 is tough because at that age kids don’t have the physical or mental strength to go on playing for a long period. Pranav Dhanawade batted for a day and a half and achieved this feat. His name is in record books and it will take years probably another century for any other batsman to go even anywhere near him. However after that moment of bedazzled ‘Wow’, when my mind returned to the rational terrain, a question popped up, “Wasn’t there anyone who could take his wicket? For that long a period?”

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Pranav Dhanawade deserves every bit of praise and accolades he has been receiving. Pranav comes from a very humble background and he can be a role model for millions of kids like him. But let’s go back to the game. Looking at the scorecard, it’s obvious that there has been an abysmal difference between the two teams. At the end of the first day, Pranav had already broken the world record and was not out on 652. This is what DNA published next morning.

Arya Gurukul School coach Yogesh Jagtap was awestruck by Pranav’s innings. “That was special. I have never seen something like this. Yes, the ground may be small like a Cross Maidan or he was dropped quite a few times by my players, but credit to him for the way he played,” said Jagtap.

“The boys playing for my team were actually from U-14 and most of them playing for the first time. My U-16 team players who were supposed to participate could not come as the principal could not release them due to 10th exams. The boys were under prepared. In fact, such was the impact of his shots that they could not put hand to the ball,” he added.

Yes! You read it right. The boys from Arya Gurukul were from Under-14 team and many playing for the first time. It explains why such a difference between two teams! Anyone who has played sports in school knows very well that from 14 to 16 is the time when a boy undergoes maximum physical changes and under-14 and under-16 teams are completely different ballgames.

A few things in the story that I don’t approve of. First of all, the coach had an opportunity to teach his team an important lesson in sportsmanship. He could have taught the team that it’s almost unethical to torture and decimate someone for personal records in an uneven contest. It’s one thing to dominate someone who is not as gifted or not as skilled as you. But it’s not fair to crush someone who is biologically or physically not equipped to match you. The coach, through Pranav, went for personal glory for himself. I also read that the Coach, Mubin Shaikh, is a generous gentleman who hasn’t even charged any fee from Pranav because of his family’s financial condition. However in the process of Pranav’s world record, the decision of going on with the innings might have caused harm to a few. Just think about those kids, bowlers of Arya Gurukul, some of who weren’t even supposed to be playing on that day! how would they feel? How would they have been received in their school? or the ridicule and bullying they would suffer! For example this piece from Andy Zaltzman? Maybe a few of them would leave cricket altogether. In the end, I just want to say one thing to the coach of Pranav’s team, “Sir, probably you brought in front of us a future star, but you – yourself – missed a chance to teach a lesson in fairness and sportsmanship.”

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